Kristof, my least favorite Times columnist after all the other Times columnists aside from Paul Krugman, tells the story of his conversation this week with a Chinese woman in Beijing about the fact that America is about to elect Obama to be president.
She: Obama? But he’s the black man, isn’t he?
Me: Yes, exactly.
She: But surely a black man couldn’t become president of the United States?
Me: It looks as if he’ll be elected.
She: But president? That’s such an important job! In America, I thought blacks were janitors and laborers.
Me: No, blacks have all kinds of jobs.
She: What do white people think about that, about getting a black president? Are they upset? Are they angry?
Me: No, of course not! If Obama is elected, it’ll be because white people voted for him.
She: Really? Unbelievable! What an amazing country!
Kristof’s point in the column is that the entire world feels the same way, awed and amazed that America can do this, and that it could indicate a return to the kinder, gentler America envisioned by Bush I. The world is ready to breathe a collective sigh of relief. Kristof concludes,
Yet if this election goes as the polls suggest, we may find a path to restore America’s global influence — and thus to achieve some of our international objectives — in part because the world is concluding that Americans can, after all, see beyond a person’s epidermis.
On a related note: This is maybe the best Joe Klein article ever (and he used to be really good back in the 90s, started to suck in the Bush years and has slowly but steadily returned to his senses). It’s about why Obama is going to be America;s first back presidentRead that first page about Obama’s meeting with General Petraeus. I was definitely impressed. The most personal and most interesting piece I’ve read on Obama, and just about any politician.
One reader here said a couple of months ago, “You and I both know America isn’t ready to elect a black man president.” And even today he’s sticking to his guns on that. Sorry “my friends” (as McCain would say), but it’s going to happen and we’d better all get used to it. Read the article, and maybe you’ll feel a little better about him. I know, it’s hard not to be cynical about any politician, especially when we harbor strong feelings about them. All I can say is that’s when we should make an extra effort to see the other side of the story. Because things are never – pardon the expression – so black and white.
Contrary to my “America isn’t ready” friend, I believe the election of our first black president is not only a distinct possibility but an inevitability. (The just-like-us-plain-folks Joe-six-pack lovin’ soccer mom certainly didn’t give his opponent any advantages.)
Sorry if that post sprawled a bit. Long day.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.